A Look Back at Shin Godzilla (2016)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from watching the movie and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

There is no doubt that Japan’s fictional monster Godzilla (originally called as Gojira) made tremendous impact not only with the Japanese but also with other entertainment lovers around the world. Way back in 1954, the monster was portrayed as a destructive, walking symbol of nuclear weapons in the movie Gojira directed by the late Ishirô Honda.

As the years passed by, several more Godzilla movies were released by Toho Pictures. In 1998, an American-made movie about Godzilla was finally made in a disappointing form directed by Roland Emmerich. In 2014, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures made a more respectful film of the monster under the direction of Gareth Edwards. In 2019, the follow-up Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released and I enjoyed it a lot more than its 2014 predecessor.

Before the 2019 movie was released, Toho in Japan released Shin Godzilla (alternate titles: Shin Gojora and Godzilla: Resurgence) which was the result of the 2014 movie’s success as well as the fact that there were no restrictions in the contract with Legendary Pictures for the Japanese studio to make their own domestic versions.

Due to its lack of presence in cinemas here in the Philippines in 2016, I was unable to watch it on the big screen. Fortunately, it was released locally on original DVD and I got to watch it in the comfort of home.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Shin Godzilla co-directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi (both best known for Neon Genesis Evangelion).

This is classic Godzilla.

Early story

The story begins at Tokyo Bay where the coast guard personnel found an abandoned yacht and searched inside. Suddenly a huge cloud of steam erupted from the ocean followed by blood-like water flooding the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line. The tragedies compelled local authorities to take action starting with a committee meeting.

As emergency personnel save the victims in the damaged Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line, the tragedies reach the office of the Prime Minister who engages with many other government officials in an official meeting. They try to figure out what caused the incidents and, as such, theories and efforts to explain what happened were spoken until Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) theorized that a living creature caused it (because he saw a viral video) which only resulted disbelief and dismissal.

Suddenly a massive tail rises from the ocean which got captured in video and photographs by the news media which confirms Yaguchi’s hunch. As the Prime Minister and the team of officials spend more time discussing and searching for real experts (because the three scientists they just met did not produce any breakthroughs), a huge creature makes its way into one of Tokyo’s districts through a waterway causing massive damage and displacing many people as well as all boats that got in its way.  

In a press conference, the Prime Minister gave his assurance to the public that they need not worry about the creature coming to shore. Just after giving his assurance speech, an assistant approaches the Prime Minister with really bad news that the creature has been crawling inland and causing even more damage…

Quality

Japan’s iconic monster is not only terrifying here but also very deadly.

When it comes to presentation in comparison to all other Godzilla movies released, Shin Godzilla is very unique as it strongly brings to the viewers a very in-depth examination of the bureaucracy of the Japanese government complete with the many laws, requirements, rules and other elements of governance that made it so hard for the local authorities to respond to Godzilla’s invasion of the metropolis. There are key details that were raised such as the constitutionality of using local military force against the monster (which is not a foreign invader), which department should be in-charge of research about the same monster, etc.

Along the way, there is an overload of information – in terms of text, images and dialogue – that makes viewing quite a challenge. This makes watching Shin Godzilla a learning experience that viewers who are interested in governance and science will likely enjoy although it will alienate other moviegoers, especially those who only want to watch the spectacle of massive on-screen destruction that giant monster movies are known for. Going through all the exposition and explanations, and understanding most of it, however, will make the viewing experience worth it as these countless details do make sense in relation to Godzilla’s destructive impact on the people.

And then there is the huge cast of characters that needs to be followed. This is another big challenge for viewers because if one misses out on the key purpose a character has, then following the government’s efforts on dealing with Godzilla will make less sense. Not only will you have to follow the characters’ names, you will also have to remember their respective work titles. Apart from the government officials, there is also the huge batch of nerds and varied experts gathered by the government to do intense research. Again, those people need to be followed and remembered so you can understand what they do and how they contribute to their government’s efforts. When it comes to performances, they are collectively dramatic and you will be convinced of the pressure, the danger and uncertainty they face with Godzilla threatening Tokyo.

Better get used to seeing so many characters throughout the movie.
Hiroki Hasegawa as Rando Yaguchi.

As for the main spectacle of the movie, Godzilla, I can say that the monster here is very terrifying to watch. This is not your typical Godzilla as the Anno-Higuchi directorial duo really went all out with their creativity to remake Japan’s iconic monster into something new and deadly while still linking him creatively to the legacy of the classic Godzilla. There is even an element of evolution in this version of Godzilla and to see the Japanese military fire their expensive weapons at him really made a lot of spectacle to enjoy. I should also state that several scenes of disaster caused by the monster in this film were inspired by the tragedies of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011. Lastly, Godzilla here is really a super villain that is not only gigantic but also is made to be highly believable that it can destroy the nation, kill innocent civilians, demoralize the authorities and even bring Japan’s entire economy way down (note: one of the government officials explained the economic consequence of failing to defeat the monster).

When it comes to visual effects, this one is the best-looking Godzilla made by the Japanese yet! While the traditional approach of having an actor wear a rubber suit has been disregarded in favor of using modern, digital means (with motion capture), what the production team did here is very impressive as they focused strongly on having computer-generated graphics that are photo-realistic. While it is true that there were some moments of fake-looking CGI, the heavy photo-realism on the graphics of Godzilla (combined with strategic camera angles that really captured the scope and size of the monster) easily outweighed the weak spots. The lighting effects used for the laser blasts were very impressive, even competitive with what Hollywood has been doing. As for the scenes of destruction, a mix of CGI and practical effects (specifically miniatures) was used. In fact, certain scenes showing Godzilla interacting with the environment was done with pushing a prop through miniatures which resulted a high level of detail with organic and solid stuff.

The spectacle would not have been that effective, however, without the solid musical work done by Shiro Sagisu. Not only did the music add a lot to the intense sequences of Godzilla, it also brought out the sense of dread and horror out of the monster especially in the night-time scene when he was towering over a large section of Tokyo that lost power. Sagisu was also involved in Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Conclusion

The emphasis on photo-realism on the computer-generated effects is something special.

I can say it out loud that Shin Godzilla (2016) is truly a spectacle to watch complete with tons of heavy drama, tons of information and the widest cast of characters to date. It is a new version of the Japanese icon that really impresses and when it comes to movie intelligence, it easily outshines many other Godzilla flicks. While it has a lot of spectacle to keep moviegoers entertained, its heaviness with the information and large cast of characters could turn off viewers who are not used to thinking and paying attention to lots of details while watching a giant monster movie. Personally, I welcomed the information overload and made efforts on paying close attention to the details and the characters. It really takes patience and focus to truly make the most out of the story and the overall presentation.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this movie for what it is and what its message was about with regards as to how governments should respond to immense disasters, what is Japan’s place in the world of the 21st century and, most notably, what Godzilla means to Japan and the international community. This is a very solid modernization of Godzilla and the Anno-Higuchi deserve admiration.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Shin Godzilla (2016), visit Amazon for the Blu-ray disc release and see if it has the right price and special features to satisfy you.  

Overall, Shin Godzilla (2016) is recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from watching the movie and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

We all know that the 20th Century Fox franchise of X-Men movies has ended and everything cinematic about Marvel’s famous mutants are now in the hands of Marvel Studios. From the year 2000 to 2020, the original X-Men cinematic universe produced a whole bunch of movies (including spinoffs) which ultimately led to uneven results with regards to commercial success, critical feedback, artistry, production values and cultural impact. Even so, 20th Century Fox-produced X-Men movies generated more than $6 billion in ticket sales worldwide.

When it comes to the spinoff movies, I like Logan the best (sorry, Deadpool).

For the main X-Men movies, the one film that really delivered the great stuff and tons of fun for me was none other than X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). For one thing, the movie had two generations of X-Men cinematic performers (the original team led by Patrick Stewart and the newer ones from X-Men: First Class led by James McAvoy) and its story literally had them linked together with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as the living bridge between them. To put it short, it was a cinematic crossover story made with X-Men fans in mind. That film scored highly with critics and most moviegoers, and it grossed almost $750 million worldwide which makes it the highest-grossing X-Men movie ever until now.

It has been years since X-Men: Days of Future Past made waves in the cinemas and through post-theater businesses like Blu-ray, cable TV, pay-per-view, streaming and the like. Along the way, movies like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame collectively raised the standards of Hollywood superhero movies in varied ways. I should state that X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand did not age well.

To find out if the 2014 X-Men film aged well or not, here is my retro review of X-Men: Days of Future Past directed by Bryan Singer with a screenplay written by Simon Kinberg with a story done by Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn.

A great image of the cinematic X-Men, both the old and newer cast.

Early story

The story begins in the dark future. Countless mutants and human allies have been caught and imprisoned by very sophisticated Sentinels (operating for an unnamed authority that also has armed human personnel as watchers) which continue to hunt more of them down along with any humans caught aiding them. In Russia, a small X-Men team composed of Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Sunspot, Bishop, Warpath and Blink take action when they realized that the Sentinels found their hideout. Kitty Pryde, who by this time gained the new ability to send a person’s consciousness back through time, runs along with Bishop to hide in a vault to send his consciousness into the past. Fortunately for them, their teammates delayed the unstoppable Sentinels enough to succeed.

Some time later at another location, an aging Charles Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine and Storm arrive to meet with Kitty Pryde and her teammates. Xavier gives the team an in-depth history lesson about the Sentinels which were created decades earlier by the late Bolivar Trask who was assassinated by Mystique (who believed she could make a difference for her fellow mutants). After the assassination, Mystique got caught by the authorities and became a live experiment for scientists working for the government. Her DNA helped accelerate the development of the Sentinel program which made them able to adapt to most mutant attacks and powers.

A plan gets formed for Kitty Pryde to send Xavier back through time to his younger self in 1973 to prevent the assassination from happening. Kitty states it’s too risky for the old Xavier to go through time as it may kill him. Wolverine volunteers to take Xavier’s place as his healing factor (regeneration) will ensure his survival with the process. Xavier presses Wolverine to convince the 1973 Charles Xavier to help prevent the assassination given the fact that he was a broken man at the time.

Wolverine arrives in his younger self’s body in New York of 1973. He makes his way to the mansion of Charles Xavier. As it turns out, Xavier’s school has been closed for some time and has been decaying…   

Quality

Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Hugh Jackman as Beast, Charles Xavier and Wolverine respectively.

Considering what was made and what were presented through this movie, the creative team and the cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past literally scored a home run here resulting true greatness! Bryan Singer, whose previous X-Men directorial job was 2003’s X2, finally struck gold with regards to storytelling, directing and, finally, spectacle (previous his big weakness).  

In terms of storytelling, this movie, first and foremost, is not a faithful adaptation of the classic Days of Future Past storyline at all. In fact, there was no need for it to be faithful. What the screenwriters came up with was a loose adaptation which allowed them to craft a more original story that involved the established X-Men characters (from the early movies) and the other X-Men characters (who started in 2011’s X-Men: First Class) and have them set apart in terms of time periods (similar to what was done in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations, but much better and more compelling in writing). The result is a crossover tale with Wolverine being the traveler through time.

The Sentinels are clearly terrifying and unstoppable!

The great news here is that the script has very strong structuring done and even had enough space to briefly acknowledge events and characters from the first three X-Men films plus 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine as canon. All of these add to the narrative very well and when the stakes were raised, the overall plot made sense. Let me add that it was a smart move for the writers to raise the stakes in the two time periods during the final act of the movie, which really made the story more engaging to viewers. I should state that having two conflicts happening simultaneously on screen in this X-Men movie was done efficiently and without ever becoming confusing nor messy.

Apart from the narrative, the portrayal of the X-Men was, indeed, spot-on. Noticeably, the major characters here were Charles Xavier (both old and young), Wolverine (both old and young), Mystique, Magneto (specifically the young version), Beast and Bolivar Trask. Strong writing was evident in the dialogue of the mentioned characters, as well as in those with minor roles. Through dialogue alone, I easily recognized these cinematic characters.

Michael Fassbender delivered his best performance as young Magneto.

Given his strength in telling stories, I should say that Bryan Singer succeeded in executing the script into cinematic narrative. Not only that, he succeeded in getting really good performances from the cast. James McAvoy (young Xavier), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Michael Fassbender (young Magneto) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) were evidently more confident and more comfortable in reprising their characters (note: they debuted together in X-Men: First Class).

The old cast composed of Patrick Stewart (old Xavier), Ian McKellen (old Magneto), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Halle Berry (Storm), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) and Daniel Cudmore (Colossus) all made a very welcome return. To be specific, it was only Patrick Stewart among them who had the most engaging dialogue with Ian McKellen being a distant second to him. As most of the film was set in the past, it was understandable that the old cast’s dialogue would not be that rich which translates to limited performance. The filmmakers tried bouncing back with mutant variety by having Bingbing Fan as Blink, Adan Canto as Sunspot and Booboo Stewart as Warpath, who all provided nicely in the action scenes and special effects use.

Bingbing Fan and Booboo Stewart as Blink and Warpath.

Hugh Jackman’s performance as Wolverine in this movie is the most unique of them all. Not only does he have to play TWO versions of his character, he as the only member of the old X-Men cast spent a great deal of time interacting with the newer X-Men players. The great news here is that Jackman has great chemistry with James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Michael Fassbender, which ultimately justified the crossover! Speaking of McAvoy, his scene with the older version of his character is very memorable and a highlight! Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask is excellent but to my surprise, he is not exactly villainous nor did he express cruelty. He’s more of an obsessed scientist and as such, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto easily overshadows him when it comes to being the main antagonist. This is surprising but not exactly a problem.

More on the anti-hero factor of the movie, I should say that the Sentinels in this movie are the most dangerous and the most intimidating non-sentient, scientific antagonists since the Terminator. Being programmed to deal with mutants, the Sentinels are unrelenting and often used violence to complete their objectives. The futuristic Sentinels, which are evolved versions thanks to Mystique’s DNA, are so formidable the mutants cannot simply defeat them. Even the 1970s Sentinels are quite formidable.

As mentioned earlier, I do confirm that Bryan Singer really outdid himself on delivering the spectacle back with support from the special effects team, the stunt team and the like. The action scenes involving the X-Men are top-notch, in fact they make the action in Singer’s previous X-Men films look minor in terms of creativity, quality and fun! The computer-generated effects in this movie still look great by today’s standard, although some CGI used in the floating stadium sequence looked rushed. Also it was quite a marvel to see Wolverine and Beast face-off with a 1970s Sentinel in the final act. I should mention that the slow-motion sequence involving Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters) is one great and funny spectacle to watch, well worth replaying!

Conclusion

Jennifer Lawrence in her best-ever performance as Mystique.

I declare that X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) is the best-ever X-Men movie I have seen and it has aged very well! Its overall quality is very great and the combined talents of director Singer, the cast, the writers and all the technical teams justified it all. By today’s standards, this X-Men movie still stands very high among all superhero movies of Hollywood ever released! As an X-Men film, this one is truly epic and the true highlight of all X-Men movies under 20th Century Fox. As a time-travel film, this one has a very unique approach and it should be noted that director Bryan Singer approached James Cameron to talk about time travel, parallel universes and the like.

More on personal viewing, I can say that this film greatly entertained me in the cinema back in 2014, and it still succeeds in doing so whenever I replayed it on Blu-ray in the comfort of home. If there is anything I regret, it’s the fact that I never saw this movie in the IMAX cinema.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), visit Amazon for the Blu-ray release as well as the 4K Blu-ray combo release. There is also the Rogue Cut of the movie also on Blu-ray.

Overall, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) is highly recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Total Recall (1990)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from watching the movie and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

I miss the old days when an R-rated action-packed science fiction movie can be passionately made with exceptional directing, clever writing, great camera work that’s consistently steady, solid performances from the actors, action that was not too choreographed, and visuals that heavily utilized practical effects and optical effects.

I’m talking about Total Recall, the 1990 sci-fi action movie that starred a much younger Arnold Schwarzenegger supported by Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (who directed the 1987 classic RoboCop) with a screenplay (based on the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale) by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman, Total Recall was a tremendous hit in the cinemas grossing more than $261 million worldwide with a production budget of over $60 million. To date, the film remains a favorite not only with fans of Schwarzenegger but also with people who love action movies, sci-fi movies, movies of the 1990s and geeks.

But before looking back at this movie, it is important to take note that Total Recall took several years of development before it finally got produced. The very first screenplay was written by O’Bannon and Shusett in the 1970s (after securing the film rights to Philip K. Dick’s short story when the author was still alive). Eventually prolific movie producer Dino De Laurentiis took the project for development. Years later, De Laurentiis’ company collapsed (due to failed projects) which provided Schwarzenegger the golden opportunity to get Total Recall by persuading Carolco to secure the rights for a few million dollars. After many screenplay drafts written and the hiring of Verhoeven as director (note: Schwarzenegger approached him personally) plus Gary Goldman, the rest became history.

Screenshot_20200524-002827_YouTube.jpg
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox in a memorable scene.

Now, here is a look back at Total Recall.

Early Story

The story begins at the surface of planet Mars where a man and a lady (both wearing space suits) travel on foot. Suddenly, the man slips down and breaks the frontal shield of his helmet exposing himself to Mars’ air. It turned out to be an intense nightmare for Douglas Quaid who was in bed with his beautiful wife Lori. Lori asked him about the unidentified woman who appeared in his dreams, but Quaid expresses his love for her. On his way to work, Quaid saw a TV ad inside the train about Rekall, a company that sells holidays and adventures in the form of memories. At work, his fellow construction worker discouraged him from availing of any services from Rekall. After work, Quaid visits Rekall and decides to avail of an ego trip as a secret agent. Just as the memory trip was about to start, Quaid wakes up violently…

Quality

This movie is still great to watch. Let me start first with the creative team of Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Screenshot_20200524-002229_YouTube.jpg
A great action scene about to start…

When it comes to the synergy between the director and the lead player, Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger make a great creative team that made this movie very special! When asked during an interview what it was like for him to work with Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven said:  Arnold is great. Switching from Rutger Hauer to Arnold is not that big a step. It’s strange to say that, because he’s this crazy Austrian, with an accent—but, for me, Arnold is the American Rutger. I think if I did a few movies with Arnold, I could do as much with him as I did with Rutger. Now, this movie was the wrong thing . . . But I think you can do much more with Arnold, explore more possibilities, than was necessary for this movie.

Screenshot_20200523-235159_YouTube.jpg
Sharon Stone as Lori.

Now, it is a fact that Schwarzenegger lacks versatility when it comes to acting. Even so, Verhoeven succeeded in getting a deeper-than-expected performance from the star in this movie. Sure, we get to see Schwarzenegger fight bad guys with really rough action, fire guns, run and jump around here but what really stood out here was his portrayal of a man who discovers that the life he knew was all a lie and goes on to find the truth about himself. This role remains a standout role of Schwarzenegger’s among all the characters he played in his many other action films. What is also notable with Douglas Quaid is that the protagonist is always in danger and never invincible, very similar to how Bruce Willis played John McClane in Die Hard. If you watch this film after seeing Schwarzenegger play his invincible icon in the Terminator movies, you will feel his pain, tension and curiosity here! As if that was not enough, there is also the other role Schwarzenegger played in this movie that you should see.

Of course, Total Recall also drew greatness and depth from Verhoeven who also got strong performances from Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox. Sharon Stone is the beautiful wife who will shock you. Michael Ironside is the henchman who will make you root for Schwarzenegger even more. Rachel Ticotin is the brave woman who is believable with the cause she is involved with.

Screenshot_20200524-002035_YouTube.jpg
Rachel Ticotin as Melina.

More notably, Ronny Cox is the all-powerful and ruthless executive who will get on your nerves and make you root for Schwarzenegger a lot, very similar to how his villainous role in RoboCop made moviegoers root for the cyborg policeman. It should be noted that the evil executive-henchman duo of Cohaagen (Cox) and Richter (Ironside) here is a directorial trademark of Verhoeven’s and it should bring back memories of the other evil duo in RoboCop. More than that, Ronny Cox succeeded in selling the concept that Cohaagen really had been the administrator of the colony in Mars exploiting the resources and the people for a long time.

More on getting the most out of the actors, Verhoeven and his team crafted a memorable hand-to-hand fight scene between Lori (Stone) and Melina (Ticotin) actually taking part in the action and stunts. Sharon Stone clearly got athletic in this movie and her efforts paid-off nicely, complete with another fight scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger (she actually even threw two high kicks at Schwarzenegger’s head) early in the film. Beyond the hard battle with Stone, Ticotin went on to take part in further action scenes in the film and she sure is believable as an action performer. To put things in perspective, Stone and Ticotin are not action stars but they excelled nicely in their work here and this also made Total Recall special.

When it comes to storytelling under the direction of Verhoeven, Total Recall moved at a medium-to-fast pace and there was never a single moment of rushing, nor a single boring moment at all. The film just kept going smoothly complete with true unpredictability which results lots of twists and surprises. I should also state that the dialogue from the finalized screenplay is still excellent, and they were nicely delivered by the actors. Verhoeven also added depth to the film by using mystery while also getting good performance from Schwarzenegger as Doug Quaid finds out that life is not what it seems. I should state that the sci-fi elements of altering (and adding) human memories with the use of computers and the business of selling virtual holidays and ego trips were strongly emphasized. These also add to the film’s mystery which should engage you to wonder and analyze as the story moves on.

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The best view from an office on planet Mars.

On the spectacle, Total Recall is heavily loaded! The action is violent, plentiful and carries that particular aesthetic that only director Verhoeven has. It’s hard to explain in words but once you watch the action in this movie (plus comparing it to RoboCop and Starship Troopers), you will realize it. Even so, the action never turned this movie into a brainless affair. The action worked nicely to balance the mystery and suspense.

The visual effects here were mostly done by practical and optical ways. Special effects specialist Rob Bottin, who famously worked in John Carpenter’s The Thing and worked also with Verhoeven in RoboCop, came up with very memorable animatronics to simulate facial and physical changes on characters on key sequences involving sci-fi elements. The team also crafted really freaky looking makeup works on the Mars mutants, which really gave this film a strong sci-fi look. I also like the use of miniatures and physical sets that visualized the colony in Mars. By today’s standards, this movie’s visual effects still look great and I can only wish that filmmakers today would rely less on computers and go back to using practical effects (note: physical stuff) and, on certain occasions, optical effects.

Screenshot_20200524-000149_YouTube.jpg
Really great movie makeup work by Rob Bottin.

When it comes to the physical environments, this movie was filmed a lot in Mexico, specifically on key locations and on the sound stages in an established movie production studio there. Years ago, when I first learned for the first time that the trains used in the film were real-life trains that actually operated in one of Mexico’s real-life transportation systems, I was astounded! Paul Verhoeven himself confirmed that the train sequences were not only shot on location with real trains (note: monitors were added by the filmmakers to achieve a futuristic look) but the place’s architectural design were very unique and fitted nicely with the sci-fi concept of the movie.

The Mars colony set does not look fake to me. In fact, it really looks like it has long been lived in by people and the filmmakers nicely designed it. The Venusville set looks very convincing and, within the story, it got decayed due to long-term businesses, constant vehicular traffic and people who always flocked the place. The Mars hotel meanwhile has that cleaner, nicer look with tourists who paid good money for pleasure and discovery.

I should mention that the cinematography here done by Jost Vacano is excellent. The set-ups of the camera to get great angles of the actors is special, and the same can be said about the capturing of the spectacle that happened on-screen. The flashback of Mars inside Quaid’s mind had great, floating views of the location complete with perfectly smooth movement! Vacano also worked with Verhoeven in RoboCop.

Finally, the musical score by the late Jerry Goldsmith is very memorable and this is my favorite among all his works. The music provided gave this movie a strong sci-fi feel and when suspense plays, the tunes added nicely to it. The most memorable music tracks here are the opening credits music (which is immersive) and the foot chase between Quaid and Richter on Earth (the music really keeps the pace high).

Conclusion

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Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid in a key scene.

Total Recall is a true, adulterated sci-fi action classic and easily it is still is one of the best ever movies I’ve seen from Schwarzenegger, Verhoeven and Stone. A few visual elements did not age well but its highly engaging story (combined with the strong performances and spectacle) remains its key selling point. There is a lot of ambiguity throughout the film and it will keep you wondering if the story (or at least portions of it) was reality or all a dream in Quaid’s mind. The way the story is structured combined with the excellent spectacle, this is a movie that is worth watching again and again! It remains an effective viewing experience for me until now.

As it contains the directorial trademarks of Verhoeven mixed with Schwarzenegger’s own style of expression and hard action, Total Recall is a very unique move of its own and it’s impossible to replicate nor match. Keep in mind that the 2012 remake of this movie was badly made (even though it had a big budget and highly advanced visual effects involving the use of computers) and ended up being a complete failure.

To put it short, Total Recall is more than just an action-packed thrill ride. It is also a mystery film that will keep viewers on the edge as the search for answers continues. Total Recall also explores the theme of what would you do when you realize that the life you remember turned to be an exceptional lie, and that you are literally caught in the middle of a web surrounded by dangerous, powerful people. I could never forget how my mind got motivated as I focused on the narrative the first time I ever saw this great movie decades ago. Total Recall was a sci-fi viewing experience like no other.

Overall, Total Recall (1990) is highly recommended! I urge you, my readers, to buy the movie on Blu-ray disc or watch it via streaming.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back At Logan

What a journey it has been! When I first saw then newcomer Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in the first X-Men movie back in 2000, I was not that impressed. In X2: X-Men United, Jackman outdid himself and established Wolverine as a very defining action hero for 21st century Hollywood cinema that moviegoers can keep coming back for more.

Then Jackman played Wolverine (referred to as Logan) several more times in the X-Men movies plus the standalone Wolverine movies. His most defining performance as the cinematic icon happened in 2017 with the release of Logan directed by James Mangold.

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Hugh Jackman delivered his best superhero movie performance in Logan.

Set in what is the near future, Logan takes place in a time (note: the X-Men cinematic universe timeline was revised as a result of X-Men: Days of Future Past) when mutants are dying off as a human species. Wolverine/Logan works as a limousine driver and lives at a smelting plant in Mexico with Cabal and a very old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who has dementia and has been unstable with his telepathic powers which make him a danger.

The future is bleak for them. Logan is very old and his healing factor has weakened a whole lot and the adamantium coating of his skeleton has poisoned him. Xavier meanwhile needs be provided with medication to prevent him from having a seizure which, combined with his telepathic powers, affects all others around them negatively. It has also been confirmed that an incident was caused by Xavier’s seizure which killed off several X-Men members leaving them three. Logan has to work and earn as much money as he could to keep providing the medication.

One day, a lady approaches Logan to try to hire him to drive her and a young girl named Laura (X-23 in the comics, played by Dafne Keene) to a refuge in North Dakota to escape from danger. Logan accepts reluctantly but discovers that the lady got killed. He returned to the smelting plant and learned that Laura stowed away by discreetly riding his limo. Eventually mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (who met Logan early in the film) arrive at the smelting plant. From this point, Logan realizes why the lady and Laura are targets and then mayhem begins when the little girl fights the mercenaries.

When it comes to storytelling, Logan emphasizes the violent and bitter journey of Wolverine who, at a very late stage in his life, has to accept the reality that he has to make another hard adjustment as a key element from his past comes into his life which is Laura who is actually a clone of him produced from an extracted sample of his DNA. The movie has some parallels with the 1950s cowboy movie Shane (which has some scenes in the film) which added depth to the story.

Logan also emphasizes the element of aging which has not been fully explored in the superhero movie genre until now. Wolverine lived lonely, had no people to love and his personal journey has been marked with violence and death. He could only move forward with whatever opportunities he could find but no matter what he does, happiness will always be unreachable to him. For Charles Xavier, age really tore him down and being almost 100-years-old in the story, he really has nowhere else to go to but death. Not even his legacy of brilliance and teaching mutants to use their powers for good could make any profound changes.

The long journey of Logan, Xavier and Laura in the film is where the character developments really set in. Along the way, there is a scene in which Logan, holding X-Men comic books (made specifically for the story), expressed his displeasure about how people perceive the X-Men and that the pharmaceutical company fed their young cloned mutants with fantasy and lies. Also striking to me as a viewer and a geek were the scenes showing how unethical the company has been with developing the young mutants (X-23’s pals) who decide to fight to escape.

In terms of presentation, Logan was rated R and for good reasons. It was rated R not simply because of very brutal violence and swearing but because its concepts are clearly meant for adults to see. If you combine the concepts of unethical science experiments, mercenary brutality, human rights violations and unchecked destruction, clearly Logan is NOT the superhero movie made for parents and their little kids to watch together. When it comes to action and spectacle, this movie has more than enough stuff to keep viewers entertaining while at the same time it has this particular 1980s R-rated Hollywood action film feel to it.

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Dafne Keene as X-23/Laura. Her great act will be remembered for a very long time.

Performances of the actors were top-notch, specifically Jackman, Stewart and Dafne Keene. Hugh Jackman as a superhero cinematic artist truly evolved! If you disregard the timeline alteration of the X-Men films, you will realize how Jackman’s Wolverine gradually changed in terms of style and expression. In 2000’s X-Men, Wolverine was trying to figure out his place among the mutants as Charles Xavier helped him. In X2, he decided to be with the X-Men and help them out in their situation. In X-Men: The Last Stand, he has to deal with helping the X-Men tackle Magneto who has Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey (the lady Logan has feelings for). In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he struggles morally and dealt with his relationship with his “brother” Sabretooth. In The Wolverine, he moves away from the X-Men and got himself involved with a conflict (plus an old friend) in Japan. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine of the dark future goes back through time to his younger self with the pressure to alter history.

Patrick Stewart’s dying Xavier in Logan shows a new dimension to the cinematic art of the actor. He really makes Xavier look hopeless and yet he successfully made viewers more sympathetic to his character than ever before. Last but not least, Dafne Keene as Laura/X-23 proved how talented she really is when it comes to dramatic scenes. Even though she got yelled at by Hugh Jackman, Keene still moved on with her strong performance. Definitely her performance is something to be remembered for a very long time in cinema.

Conclusion

I have seen a whole lot of superhero movies in my life. Just over a week ago I managed to watch Avengers: Endgame and it was a true epic like Infinity War. Even by today’s standards, Logan is a standout superhero movie that delivers spectacle, action, solid performances, some humor and the distinct vibe of 1980s R-rated Hollywood action cinema combined. In fact, I should say that Logan is a modern day classic among all superhero movies.

As such, Logan is highly recommended and I urge you readers to watch it on Blu-ray disc format to get the best visual and R-rated viewing experience.


Thank you for reading. If you find this game review engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com